You should not try to treat or prevent nighttime leg cramps with quinine (Qualaquin), as it may cause potentially serious and even life-threatening problems. Some of the complications that may occur when this medicine is used for nighttime leg cramps include potentially fatal blood reactions and heart rhythm problems. If you have leg cramps, talk to your healthcare provider about other treatment options.
Can Quinine Treat Leg Cramps?
Quinine sulfate (Qualaquin®) is a prescription medication used to treat malaria, a blood infection caused by parasites. At this time, quinine is only available as the medication Qualaquin. Other products (available over-the-counter, or "OTC") that claim to contain quinine actually contain very little of the medication -- too little to have any quinine actions.
This medication is not approved to treat or prevent leg cramps. However, the majority of quinine's use in the United States has been for this unapproved purpose. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about quinine use for leg cramps. This warning states that this product should not be used for nighttime leg cramps due to the potential for serious and life-threatening reactions.
Some people developed permanent kidney damage after using quinine for leg cramps. There have also been reports of hospitalization and death. Because of the risk for these reactions, this medicine is no longer recommended for the treatment or prevention of leg cramps.
Furthermore, quinine interacts with many other medications (see Drug Interactions With Quinine). It should also be noted that there is very little evidence showing quinine relieves leg cramps.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Qualaquin [package insert]. Philadelphia, PA: AR Scientific, Inc.;2010 June.
United States Food and Drug Administration. Qualaquin (quinine sulfate): New Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy - Risk of serious hematological reactions. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm218424.htm. Accessed September 1, 2010.
Sheon, RP. Nocturnal leg cramps, night starts, and nocturnal myoclonus. In: UpToDate, Basow, DS (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2010.
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